A series of investigative travel books in search of matriarchy : Where women have naturally become strong, without having to fight for their rights.
Join me and my girlfriend as we delve into the structure of family and social hierarchy to discover some truly alternative ways of life. Each book explores a new prospective culture in : Mexico, Indonesia, China and India.
How the project began
When my girlfriend, Katerina, secured an internship with Womankind Worldwide in London, I never thought I’d be sucked into the feminist world as well.
But one day it happened!
She returned home from work all full of enthusiasm, saying she’d just seen a man giving a talk on female empowerment, and was now convinced all feminist issues should be marketed by men.
“Umm… that’s a great idea,” I said, and then suggested that male rights could also benefit from being marketed by women.
“As if men really need extra rights!” she retorted.
“But in matriarchal cultures – men need rights!” I joked.
Katerina then typed the word matriarchy into Google, but amusingly the search suggestion came up, ‘Did you mean patriarchy?’
This enraged her so much she declared: “I’m going to find all the cultures on the planet where women rule!”
And so the project was born.
To begin with I found it difficult to get excited by our search for matriarchy, because I felt I was loosing my manhood and becoming a feminist! So, to combat this feeling of shame and insecurity, I decided my role should be to stick up for the men and give the male perspective on these cultures. I told myself I’d be heading off on a high-octane adventure – a quest into a series of forbidden matriarchal kingdoms, where scary giant ogre women dressed in skimpy rags and wielded jagged-edged swords!
I quickly realised, however, that this is exactly what’s wrong with the world – men are simply terrified of the idea of strong minded women, and, I admit, I was no different and had a lot to learn.
The Where Women Rule project has taken roughly six years of research and travel between jobs, and has led us all over the world to Mexico, Indonesia, China and India. The books are designed to bring the awkward subject of gender roles to a wider audience using quirky on-location sketches, amusing conversation with the locals, in-depth historical research, and plenty of provocative facts and legends.
Hopefully, they won’t just be feminist books for women – but also for men!
What is matriarchy?
In Greek, matriarchy literally means ‘Rule of the Mother’ and is often referred to as the opposite of patriarchy ‘Rule of the Father’. In 1861, the Swiss historian, Johann Jakob Bachofen, was the first person to apply the concept of matriarchy. In his book Das Mutterrecht (Mother’s Right), he describes one of the early phases of human evolution as a period when women played a central role in society. According to Bachofen these prehistoric societies were not determined so much by the supremacy of women, but more by the equality that existed within the community: unconditional love, a strong connection with nature, and the sacred bond between mother and child. Back then this was a highly controversial theory, which inspire other radical thinkers, among them Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Engels developed Bachofen’s theory for his own book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), and argues that the oldest form of family was something called ‘Group Marriage’, which also happens to be a primitive form of communism. Women owned children collectively and had a certain level of control over the men. Engels also came up with a theory as to how the women eventually lost this power. He says it all began with the onset of farming and the gathering of possessions, which also happened to coincide with the men apparently learning how babies were born. Children were then claimed as the man’s property, and women were enslaved into strict monogamous marriages. So began the period of ‘Father’s Right’, known today as patriarchy.
According to the modern anthropological establishment, however, there’s no conclusive proof that matriarchy has ever existed in the past, or the present for that matter. But some feminist academics beg to differ, and argue that the exact meaning of the word needs to be re-addressed.
Due to this ambiguity, we have decided to use the word matriarchy in the broadest possible sense, meaning: women have more control than the men over family, children, money, and politics. These four parameters have become the basic requirements for our quest to find a real-life matriarchy!
Simon Bird is from East Devon in the United Kingdom. He studied Fine Art at Cheltenham College of Art and has over 20 years experience travelling the globe creating art projects with indigenous tribes.
Katerina Karaskova is from the Czech Republic and studied Law at Charles University in Prague. She has been in the humanitarian and development field for over eight years, and worked in Guatemala, Uganda, Kenya, London and Prague.
Katerina has published the Czech language version of the Where Women Rule project called Kde ženy vládnou
Proofreading and copy-editing by Alexander G. Menyharth-Brigers.
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